Perron declares itself a member of the Mexican Appreciation Society. A sampling of the restaurant’s food, margaritas and other treats leaves little doubt as to the establishment’s celebration of all things Mexican. Clearly they have a successful formula as they have grown to three outlets across Johannesburg, catering to increased demand and popularity of Mexican food. When a friend recently invited me to join her at the restaurant’s Illovo branch for a “Day of the Dead” fiesta, only one response was required, “sí” – yes in Spanish, as I seriously fancy Mexican food and a great party. Like in Mexico, Perron’s “Day of the Dead” event was anything but macabre. On arrival you immediately noticed the colour and party like atmosphere! There was a DJ, a Mexican entertainer, face painters and an especially designed menu. Staff wore dramatic skeleton face paintings, as did some of the patrons. Our table of ten ordered a range of starters to begin our food feast and to line our tummies ahead of the margaritas, tequila and beer. With that the scene was set for what would be a fun, fabulous afternoon.
The Back Story:
The “Day of the Dead” or “Día de los Muertos” is a significant cultural event in Mexico spanning festivities that celebrate and honour the dead over two days. In 2008 UNESCO added the “Day of the Dead” to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Put simply this refers to the practices and expressions of cultures, inherited from generation to generation like dance, social practices, and crafts.
The list aims to protect and raise awareness of these traditions. The 2016 list included India’s practice of Yoga and a decades old fishing festival in North Western Nigeria, which involves locals hand fishing, wild duck catching and canoe racing. The “Day of the Dead” coincides with the Catholic holy days, All Saints’ and All Souls, which are marked in a different way but also honour the dead. There is nothing mournful or sad or dark about the “Day of the Dead”, which dates to between the 13th to 16th century.
Celebratory and colourful, graves and cemeteries are adorned with candles and flowers while people dress up in brightly coloured garb with their faces decorated. The face paint representing a skeleton, usually of a departed loved one. Women often finish of the look with a crown of colours. There is also food and drink. The meal and booze preferences of the dead are offered up. This isn’t unique to Mexico. There are several cultures that also practice offerings to the dead. I am of Indian descent and I often serve my late Dad a home cooked meal and a shot of his favour whisky.
There are certain ingredients that are typical to Mexican food namely lime, tortilla, tamales, beans and rice to name a few. Garlic, cumin, chili are some of the main spices. Flavours are intense but don’t not necessarily blow your head off HOT. The food at Perron hits all these flavours. The quality and freshness of the ingredients further enhances the taste. The stand out starter was the smoked jalapeno poppers. The jalapeno is a quintessential Mexican chili. They were crispy on the outside, with warm oozy cheese in the centre and with a serious kick of heat – delicious! We followed this with a collection of tapas dishes for the table.
The barramundi ceviche packed a punch without overpowering the fish. On a hot Highveld summer afternoon it was refreshing and light. The slow cooked pulled pork served in a soft-shell taco was the ‘meal of the day’. After just one bite some of my fellow dinners promptly ordered extras. Don’t even get me started on the churros, a fried pastry dessert. You just have to taste them for yourself. Make a reservation and discover what your favourite Mexican meals are.
Perron’s margaritas are in my view the one of the BEST to be had in Johannesburg! Lime juice, triple sec and tequila are the basis of a classic margarita. The secret to most mixed drinks or cocktails is getting the quantities of ingredients spot on – no flavour should over power the other. Perron’s version gets it right – sour, sweet, salty and then that kick of tequila. Viva Mexico!
As the afternoon progressed there were games, dancing, singing and birthday celebrations. In keeping with Mexican tradition no celebration would be complete without the clobbering of a Piñata. Blind folded, one has to take a swing at the Piñata, which can come in several shapes and colours. They are usually filled with sweets or toys or both. We had an animal shaped figure, crammed with sweeties, which the kiddies at the restaurant enjoyed taking a crack at.
At the end of the day I went home with my spirits soaring. I had shared great times, delicious food and drink, while making great new memories - what better way to remember the dead while celebrating the living! I can’t wait for my next “Day of the Dead.”